Lana Lan

Creature Model Supervisor
Industrial Light & Magic

How do you feel about the current state of the VFX industry or Hollywood and its inclusion of women and diversity?
I don't know if there's anything specific about this industry, I think like many industries it's very male-dominated, especially on the artist side. I think really that comes more from just cultural expectations of women and how we raise girls, how women are expected to behave.

How do you plan to help advance the idea of more women in the industry?
I don't feel like there's any real overt sexism or exclusion that goes on. I think that doing stuff like this (the interview) and being a supervisor, speaking up and talking about it, helping the younger women in the department speak up, I think that's all really we can do until the world changes its ideas about women.

There's the argument that people say we need to hit a quota of 50/50 men and women. But there are also people who say you should just hire the best person for the job. What are your thoughts and feelings about that?
I do find that the male candidates to tend to be more aggressive about self-promotion, they are more outspoken, they take credit for things more sweepingly. And I think it's easy to see that and think that they are more qualified, even if they are not. And I don't know if there's something we can do in the hiring process if it's a female candidate to coax more out of them or encourage them to speak up and really show what they did.

Did you have any female role models in the industry to look up to?
Jean Bolte, especially when I started leading and supervising she was a really big help. When we were on a show together I just felt much safer. I think any time when, like the show I was just on with Karin Cooper (Creature Development Supervisor), the sort of experienced female supervisors kind of back each other up. And I think there's more of a bond, I find, than working with male supervisors. Especially with Jean, she has two kids who are older, and she's been through the whole being a mother of young children and trying to supervise at the same time. That's definitely been challenging for me and I think talking to her about it gave me sort of the courage to ask for reduced hours and being able to leave early. She gave me really good advice about making sure to find a lead who you can really count on, who can be there for the hours that you're not. I think that made me much more comfortable trying to be a supervisor, because it wasn't really something that I think I sought out.

Any words of advice you have for future generations of women interested in VFX?
There's a lot to be said for starting at the bottom. I know it's not always the most glamorous place to start. But I've seen a lot of people get impatient and jump around. I think there's something to sticking with it. Because there's a depth of understanding to the pipeline and to the industry that you get from working the back-end that you don't get just trying to be the star and be the artist.

What was your favorite project?
Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix, hands down. I had the opportunity to model the Thestral, and it was just amazing and fun. It was a great team. That turned out to be a great movie, but I learned that having a great team and collaborating with these amazing artists to bring these visions to life is the most important thing. You cannot rely on the quality of the movie that comes out for your happiness because then you'll be disappointed. Probably repeatedly.

Learn More About Lana!

Years in Visual Effects: 15
Education: Stanford University - BS, Computer Science
Hometown: Columbia, Missouri, USA/Xi'an, China
Favorite project: Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix